Objective – At the end of the session students will be able to:
- Understand the purpose of fasting and why our Church encourage all believers to wholeheartedly partake in it.
- Recognize Biblical examples of fasting
- Take a stance on how they wish to grow in Christian discipline through fasting
- Discuss original sin, repentance, and fasting
- Self-analyze areas where one has strayed from God.
- Encourage ways to better cultivate Christian habits
Memory Verse: “But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4
The Great Lent is a spiritual journey in which we prepare for the great feast of Easter. Our deepest desire, during this 50 day process, is to better understand and experience Christ. Through His Passion, Christ freed us from the oppression of death and opened for us the door to Paradise and eternal life. To help keep us focused, the Church every year compresses for us this journey as it prepares us to greet the Feast of Christ’s Resurrection. This preparatory time is the joyous period of Great Lent. Without this preparation, without this expectant waiting, the deeper meaning of celebrating Easter would be lost.
Session 1 (1.5-2.5 hours)
Opening Activity (15-30min)
Objective – Fasting calls on the Holy Spirit and brings us to repentance, prayer and almsgiving. We pray and fast because we are in a fallen state, so we ask for mercy.
- Learn the Jesus Prayer
- For almost two centuries, one of the most effective prayers has been the Jesus Prayer. It is simple, yet powerful.
- Let us learn it today! Teachers, please help students recite the following, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
Bible Passage & Discussion
Genesis 2:7-17 & Genesis 3:1-7
- After the sin of Adam and Eve, everything completely changed. The way humans related to each other and to God was shaken forever. For the first time, Genesis tells us, they realized they were naked and had to wear clothes. Sin crept into humanity destroying the beauty of perfect relationships.
- Our Church views the Garden of Eden as the first Lent, but it’s also where the first marital issue occurred. As soon as God accused Adam of eating from the tree, he quickly pointed fingers at his wife. But from that point the relationship between God and man & man and each other grew further apart. The only relationship that grew closer was the one between man and the devil. Scary, right?
- The obstacles on our journey to God can only be overcome if we desire to overcome them.
- Food has been a source of temptation in Scripture, stemming directly from the devil. In the Old Testament, the devil is a serpent who forces Eve to take the fruit from the forbidden tree. The devil tries his hand again as he forces food to be the downfall of the new Adam, Christ. However, unlike His predecessor, Christ does not allow food to cause the same sort of sin.
- What naturally takes your time and focus from God? Is there something you turn to more than God? If yes, fast from this! Nothing will ever satisfy us as God will.
- Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you during your fast. This will enable you to pray more specifically and strategically
- My Lenten Prayer (click here for handout)
- Discuss how the other members of the body also need to fast. Examples being: our eyes from seeing evil, our ears from hearing evil, our limbs from participating in anything that is not Godly. Most important of all, we need to control our thoughts. Thoughts are the source of our actions, whether good or evil. Fasting is not an end in itself. Our goal is an inner change of heart. The Lenten Fast calls for actions of self-denial and spiritual training which are central to fasting. Fasting is a spiritual exercise. It is not imposed or forced upon us. In the same way that true repentance cannot be forced upon anyone, each of us makes the choice to turn away from our sinful ways and go toward our loving, forgiving Father in Heaven.
Session 2 (1.5-2 hours)
Opening Activity (15-30 minutes)
Objective – Fasting is more than a time of what we focus on what we put in our mouths, but also what we put out. We have to speak humbly and in lovingness. The purpose of fasting is to gain mastery over oneself and to conquer the passions of the flesh. It is to liberate oneself from dependence on the things of this world in order to concentrate on the things of the Kingdom of God. It is to give power to the soul so that it would not yield to temptation and sin. According to St. Seraphim, fasting is an “indispensable means of gaining the fruit of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.”
Materials Needed – any age appropriate board game & stickers
- Choose any board game to play with the children. Then give each child a sticker to place on their outer palm. Instruct the children stating there are two purposes for this game. One is to get to the final destination space on the board and the other is to speak only positive thoughts out loud and to each other. If a child is unable to follow through with the latter and complains or speaks negatively, the other players are then given the power to take the sticker.
- Teachers, please give a few examples of kind, positive and encourage words versus the opposite.
- Teachers what you will notice as the game proceeds is that students lose focus of their initial instruction and give in to the passion of the flesh. Their attention will be on winning the game.
- Use this opportunity to empower.
Bible passage & Discussion
- When temptations come to us we have a choice; either to follow them like Adam and Eve (Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7) or to overcome them as Christ Jesus (Matt 4:1- 11).
- When Jesus was in the desert, He felt the need for a period of reflection and of strictness, even though he personally had no need for penance. Though Jesus is full of grace and holy from the moment of His conception, he sought out solitude in preparation for His messianic mission. His mission also demanded that He live in the midst of sinful people whom He was sent to evangelize and save in a struggle with demonic powers. Out of this, the occasion arose for this pause in the desert to be tempted by the devil. Therefore Jesus complied with the inner impulse and went where the Spirit willed. However what we see is that He trained His mind, body, and soul to surrender to God.
- There is no shelter in the desert and the difficulties of the desert make whatever is inside a person come to the surface. There was no temple or synagogue. Jesus was all alone, completely exposed to Satan. Even still, Jesus with fasting, prayer and meditation, maintained his focus on His mission.
- Fasting is to remind us of the Scriptural teaching, “Man does not live by bread alone.” The needs of the body are nothing compared to the needs of the soul. Above all else, we need God, Who provides everything for both the body and the soul. Fasting teaches us to depend on God more fully.
- What does Jesus say about fasting in the Bible?
- Jesus doesn’t say IF you fast, He says WHEN you fast. Mt 6:16 reads, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
- In Luke 8, When Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, the Pharisees asked Jesus about His’ disciples eating and fasting habits and He replies: But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.” Luke 5:35
- So Jesus is saying that after He leaves, His followers will fast. Jesus never instructs people on the frequency or duration of fasts. Some Christians believe that he left those specifics up to the Church to decide, while others believe he left it up to individuals as prompted by the Holy Spirit.
- What is the purpose of Lent?
- To close the gap in the relationship between man and God.
- To close the gap in the relationship between man and man.
- To further the gap in the relationship in man and Satan.
Word Search – click here for handout
To make this Lent the most meaningful experience with our heavenly Father, we have to follow the examples carved out for us by Christ Jesus himself. These are three excellent ways to model Jesus: through Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving (Charity).
Lessons learned through fasting:
- Reminder to live a life modeling Christ
- Reminder to practice self-control
- Reminder to resist temptation
- Reminder to engage in what is good and holy
- Reminder to focus on physical, emotional, and spiritual health
- Reminder to stay devoted to prayer and God’s Word
- Reminder to ask for forgiveness
- Reminder to pray for spiritual strength in all areas of life
- Reminder to never take things for granted
- Reminder that everything is a gift from God
- Murphy, Ronald E. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, N.J